Attendee engagement: With live events, keeping the audience engaged, interactive, and mesmerized is undoubtedly a challenge, and that challenge is tenfold in a virtual world. We have all been on back-to-back virtual calls, staring at a screen, two feet from the presenter, fidgeting in the uncomfortable chair in the dining room we now call our home office. So how do you keep your attendees engaged in a virtual world? With several virtual events under our belts, we are ready to share our experiences and humbly offer our top 10 tips!
1. Content, Content, Content
Now more than ever, it is important to apply a substantial amount of energy and expertise to the content of your agenda. Combine pre-recorded messages, live presentations, video presentations, breakout sessions, networking and entertainment opportunities to ensure the material is interesting, evolving and relevant.
2. Lights, Camera, & Action
The production quality of your virtual event is just as important as the dedication you traditionally put towards the set and stage design for an in-person event. Allocate a substantial amount of money to upgrade cameras, microphones, backdrops and lighting. Who doesn’t look better under the right lighting? Why do you think so many restaurants invest in mood lighting? Create the ambience and draw in the participants!
3. Unexpected Presents
With the season of gift giving upon us, remember to incorporate some sort of tactile experience that relates to your meeting content. Prior to the start of the event, arrange for a gift box to arrive that could include electronics to use during the meeting, a yummy snack box with local treats, upscale notebook and pen, and/or the book from a featured guest speaker – something tangible to help the guest remain engaged. Of course, don’t forget a personal note from your leadership or event sponsor. Helpful tip: Set up a registration platform that includes a space for current home addresses in case they do not match what is on file in your database.
4. Live Keynotes
Peruse the resources available through FICP to hire keynote speakers who are engaging, inspirational, educational and most importantly offer a human connection to the audience. Every virtual event needs to have a certain amount of pre-recorded sessions; just remember to “sprinkle in” a live keynote in between some sessions to create a sense of purpose and community.
5. Use Social Media: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and/or Twitter
Are all great for creating a social media challenge with attendees where prizes can be sent after the event. Allow people to be together socially by incorporating some company/organization spirit in the attire! Go team!!!
Raise your hand if you would rather be in a small-group setting verses hundreds of people in the same room together? By offering breakouts in small groups, with the right facilitators, the conversation will flow, the attendee engagement will increase and, perhaps, you will see someone you know who you didn’t realize was attending! If you are connecting on a personal level in a virtual setting, it's all good!
We are in the hospitality industry. Our careers and personalities thrive and crave personal interaction. Virtual experiences are not much different than in-person events, so create ways to connect attendees based on common interests and shared goals. What we miss is the informal chat in line for coffee, or shared elevator ride, as well as the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and be introduced to new friends. Many platforms have created very engaging networking "rooms" for just this reason!
8. Keep It Short & Sweet
Be wary of your meeting program length. We all know there is a big difference between sitting in a room together surrounded by laughter, vibrant energy and personal connection versus sitting alone in a chair in your home. Schedule numerous breaks, use push notifications to share tidbits, and welcome attendees back to the room to ensure that attendees feel they are part of the group not lost in cyberspace.
9. Chat Rooms and Messaging in the Event App
Back to networking, since our industry is populated with social creatures looking to mingle; be sure you encourage attendees to talk to one another by opening up the chat room or building a tool into the mobile event app to keep people talking!
10. Hire the Professionals
As we all navigate virtual meetings, hybrid events, and, eventually, meeting in-person again, hire the professionals and experts in this field. Your local DMC partner still has the insight and experience to guide you in selecting the right vendors and partners to add flair and pizzaz to your event. Allow your DMC to be a trusted advisor and resource to customize, create and logistically manage every aspect of your event where support is welcome ~ We are here for you!
Newport Hospitality & Corinthian Events